Zimbabwe, Zambia Relations Strain Amid Diplomatic Tensions

by Adenike Adeodun

Tensions have risen between Zimbabwe and Zambia, historically known as Southern and Northern Rhodesia. The trigger was confrontations during the reopening of the Kongola copper mines in Zambia’s Copperbelt province.

NewsDay Zimbabwe noted that Zambia’s ruling party supporters, from the United Party for National Development (UPND) led by President Hichilema Hakainde, criticized Zimbabwe’s Zanu PF. Social media footage showed UPND supporters accusing Zanu PF members, especially Finance Secretary Patrick Chinamasa, of undermining Zambia’s stability.

Hichilema, who leads the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Troika on Politics, Defence, and Security, recently tasked ex-Vice-President Nevers Mumba with overseeing the Zimbabwean elections. Mumba’s team later suggested that Zimbabwe’s election lacked expected democratic integrity.

According to a report by NewsDay Zimbabwe, relations soured when Hichilema abstained from President Mnangagwa’s inauguration in Harare. Mnangagwa instead welcomed Hichilema’s predecessor, Edgar Lungu, seen as his adversary.

Following Mumba’s report, Zimbabwe officials countered Hichilema and Mumba, terming them “Western puppets.” UPND’s secretary-general, Batuke Imenda, acknowledged the events to NewsDay but cited health reasons for not elaborating.

Protests revolved around allegations against Chinamasa and Rutendo Matinyarare, a Zanu PF supporter in South Africa. They were accused of plots against President Hichilema. Ndola’s demonstrators displayed placards pointing to perceived threats to Hichilema, recalling past disputes involving the late President Levy Mwanawasa.

As spotlighted by the Zambian Observer, Chinamasa’s posts on X (formerly Twitter) criticized Mwanawasa. He framed him as a Western nations’ puppet, specifically criticizing ties with ex-British PM Tony Blair. Chinamasa suggested that Mwanawasa and Blair planned to use Zambia to attack Zimbabwe over land policies.

Chinamasa also slammed Nevers Mumba, calling him a regional “embarrassment.” He questioned Hichilema’s choice to task someone he saw as an “imperialism and neocolonialism” puppet with Zimbabwe’s election observation.

Now, two nations sharing colonial history are on the brink of a significant diplomatic divide.

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